African entrepreneurs could play a key role in kick-starting economic growth on the continent, which is necessary to help stop the spread of terrorism, US President Barack Obama said.
Obama spoke at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, a US-sponsored initiative to strengthen business ties with Africa, during the first visit to Kenya, the homeland of his father, during his presidency.
"Africa is on the move. Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world," he said after greeting the crowd in Swahili.
"Entrepreneurship offers a positive alternative to the ideologies of violence and division that can all too often fill the void when young people don't see a future for themselves."
Although a plethora of technology start-ups have sprung up in Africa in recent years, local entrepreneurs frequently complain about the difficulties securing funding to get their businesses off the ground and the struggles with local corrupt authorities.
Kenya, the strongest economy in east Africa, is expected to grow by about six per cent this year. However, the country has been struggling with terrorism in the recent years.
In 2013, al Qaeda-linked Islamist group al Shabaab killed 67 people during a shooting attack in a shopping centre in the capital Nairobi.
In April this year, the same group attacked a university in Kenya's northeast near the Somali border, killing 148 people.
The US used to be Africa’s biggest trade partner but was overtaken by China in 2009.
Some Africans complain that Obama, whose father is buried in western Kenya, has not paid enough attention to the continent in his presidency. Obama has sought to change that perception, in part by hosting African leaders in Washington last year.
During his visit to Kenya, Obama met the country’s President Uhuru Kenyatta who praised the US for being a "very strong supporter of Kenya".
During the meeting, Obama said that growth and prosperity should be the number one concern for Africa that would eventually help tackle the challenges of terrorism.
The talks at State House were attended by Deputy President William Ruto, who is facing charges at the International Criminal Court that he fomented ethnic killings after Kenya's disputed 2007 election. He denies the charges. Kenyatta had faced similar charges, but these have since been dropped.